Interstate 290 Illinois
Interstate 290 is a conglomerate of several highways constructed in different eras. It begins at Interstate 90 in Schaumburg and heads south toward Addison along the IL 53 corridor. The route turns southeast once it meets Interstate 355, the Veterans Memorial (North South) Tollway. I-355 parallels IL 53 south to Downers Grove and Joliet while I-290 continues to Elmhurst and Berkeley.
A southeasterly trajectory takes I-290 adjacent to U.S. 20 (Lake Street) to IL 64 (North Avenue) and I-294 (Tri State Tollway). I-290 and I-294 parallel one another south for 2.2 miles to the village of Hillside, where the I-290 forks eastward to merge with the east end of Interstate 88 (Ronald Reagan [East West] Tollway). The Tri State Tollway stays on a southern heading to Hinsdale and I-55, where it curves southeast to I-80 and South Holland.
Advancing toward Chicago, the wye interchange where I-88/IL 110 (Chicago Kansas City Expressway) combines with I-290 represents a bottleneck where five lanes of eastbound traffic reduce to three. Beyond the congested merge point, IL 110 (CKC) overlaps with I-290 as the freeway winds east between the villages of Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood to IL 171. Following the original Congress Expressway, which was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway, I-290 separates Concordia and Forest Home Cemeteries at the Des Plains River in Forest Park. The below grade, six-lane freeway extends east from there through the village of Oak Park to enter the city of Chicago at Austin Boulevard.
The Eisenhower Expressway is one of the oldest freeways in Chicago. It runs between the South Austin and Lawndale neighborhoods initially to Near West Side, the Illinois Medical District and University Village / Little Italy. I-290/IL 110 meet I-90/94 at the Jayne Byrne (Circle) Interchange just west of Downtown Chicago. The freeway continues a short distance east of the exchange as a city parkway into the Loop. Known as Congress Parkway, the limited access highway transitions into a surface boulevard beyond the tunnel below the Old Chicago Post Office. The surface street portion of Congress Parkway ends at the foot of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, just shy of U.S. 41 (Lake Shore Drive).
East End – Chicago, IL
West End – Rolling Meadows, IL
Mileage – 29.84
Cities – Schaumburg, Elmhurst, Maywood, Cicero, Chicago
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Early Interstate plans for Chicago took I-90 southeast along what is now I-290, I-94 along the Chicago Skyway to the Indiana Toll Road, and I-294 east from the Tri-State Tollway along side I-80 & 90 to Lake Station, Indiana.
Had Illinois 53 been completed as a freeway north to U.S. 12 at Grays Lake, and U.S. 12 subsequently from there west to McHenry and north to Genona City, Wisconsin, the corridor might have been a candidate for a long distance extension of Interstate 290. This concept is purely speculative.
Interstate 290 is very tightly routed through the western suburbs and through Chicago’s West Side, with very little room for any kind of expansion. The Congress Expressway was an pre-Interstate system freeway, and it follows the route of Interstate 290 from Downtown Chicago west to I-88 (Ronald Reagan Tollway) / IL 110 (CKC) and Interstate 294 (Tri-State Tollway).
Planning for a limited access freeway route along Congress Street has a long and rich history, with its initial inclusion in the 1909 Plan of Chicago by Daniel H. Burnham. The 1940 Comprehensive Superhighway System of Chicago (approved by the Chicago City Council) included the Congress Street Expressway on October 31, 1940, and construction was authorized with that action. Work on the road began on December 7, 1949, and the first section to open was between South Ashland Avenue and South Laramie Avenue on December 15, 1955. The remainder of the route between South Ashland Avenue and Grant Park in Downtown Chicago (The Loop) opened on August 10, 1956. The $100 million project was a joint effort between the city, county and state. The Congress Street Expressway (or West Expressway) was renamed on January 10, 1964, to honor former President Dwight D. Eisenhower by the Chicago City Council. The Eisenhower Extension, which led northwest from the Congress Expressway alignment toward Schaumburg, opened in 1971.1,2
The Eisenhower Expressway was numbered as part of transcontinental Interstate 90 once Interstate Highway System markers were placed on Chicago’s expressway network. However, during a major renumbering of the Chicago metropolitan expressways in 1978, as approved by AASHTO on July 6, 1977, Interstate 290 replaced I-90. Interstate 90 was relocated to the John F. Kennedy Expressway and Jane Addams (Northwest) Memorial Tollway via Interstate 94 and Former IL 194. This renumbering also resulted in the redesignation of IL 594 (O’Hare Airport Spur of Kennedy Expressway) as Interstate 190. The idea was to provide a more direct Interstate 90 corridor from the Northwest Suburbs to Downtown Chicago.
Interstate 290 and IL 53 run concurrently from the village of Itasca, just north of the I-355 end, to I-90 (Jane Addams Memorial Tollway). IL 53 extends as a freeway north from the I-290 end through the city of Rolling Meadows, and around the village of Palatine, to Lake Cook Road. The remainder of the route northeast through the village of Long Grove travels at-grade.
Long standing plans for IL 53 included lengthening the freeway north to an extension of the U.S. 12 freeway southeast from Wisconsin. These plans however have met stiff opposition from community leaders in the affluent Lake County suburbs. One plan called for building a portion of the IL 53 route as a 45 mile per hour parkway, while others called for no build alternatives.
Expansion near the western terminus of Interstate 290 added a lane in each direction, bringing I-290 to eight overall lanes. Further construction completed in Fall 2003 widened I-290 to eight lanes between Woodfield Road (near Exits 1A/B) and Thorndale Avenue (Exit 5). Auxiliary lanes were also constructed in this project.3
A ceremony took place on August 29, 2014 to formally rename the long standing Circle Interchange, where I-90, I-94 and I-290 and IL 110 (Chicago Kansas City Expressway) come together, after former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne. Byrne was the successor to Richard J. Daley and Chicago’s first female mayor. She served one term in office that ended in 1983.4
Located over the east end of Interstate 290 is the the 2.3 million square foot Old Chicago Post Office. Built in phases between 1921 and 1932, the world’s largest post office ceased operations in 1996. Design of the structure included a 40-foot wide opening through the center to accommodate the planned Congress Street extension from the South Loop to Chicago’s West Side. The Congress Expressway was completed below the post office building in 1955.5
Looming above the east end of the Eisenhower Expressway, the vacant Old Chicago Post Office was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. An agreement between the city of Chicago and 601W, the building’s owner, in 2016 allowed work to commence on a $500 million plus renovation project. The planned three phase project remedied more than 20 code violations and included replacing the roof, repairing the facade and restoring the historic lobby.6 Work underway through 2017 involved replacing 2,200 windows and competing the full renovation of the lobby off Van Burent Street. Investment for the conversion of the art deco building into office space, restaurants, retail and park space topped $800 million, and over 23 tons of debris were hauled away by 2017. Work extended to March 2019.7,8 The Old Post Office opened for business in October 2019.
East End / Congress Parkway – Chicago, Illinois
West End – Rolling Meadows, Illinois
Two lanes depart from the Northwest Tollway mainline for the c/d roadway to I-290 east and IL 53. IL 53 leads to the northwest suburbs and along the east side of Schaumburg to other western suburbs. Southbound IL 53 ultimately ties into Historic U.S. 66 and connects with Joliet, the seat of Will County. Photo by Peter Johnson (03/13/20).
- 1956 Congress Expressway Opened–Renamed Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway on January 10, 1964
http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/, Chicago Public Library, updated February 2006.
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Expressways by Dennis McClendon of the Chicago Historical Society
- Kuznicki, Scott. “I-290 update: OPENING SOON!” Online posting, misc.transport.road, September 24, 2003.
- “Circle Interchange renamed in honor of former Mayor Jane Byrne.” Chicago Tribune, August 29, 2014.
- “Old Chicago Main Post Office receives landmark designation.” The Architects Newspaper, April 16, 2018.
- “$500M Makeover Plan For Old Post Office – Work to Begin Immediately.” Gold Coast Realty – Chicago web site.
- “Inside the old main post office, a $600 million ‘blank canvas’.” Chicago Tribune (IL), September 27, 2017.
- “Old main post office owner lands $500 million construction loan.” Chicago Tribune (IL), December 19, 2017.
Page updated May 8, 2020.